I ate breakfast with my grandma last week. As we sat at her table, she absentmindedly read the wording on the side of the milk carton, “What makes our milk so delightful? Our milk comes from herds of cows that freely graze on green pastures and organic feed, the way nature intended.”
She held her spoon mid air, tilted her head to the side, and looked a bit confused. “Well, what makes them so special? Isn’t that how all cows are raised?”
Welcome to 2012, Grandma. Somewhere along the way, grass became outdated and farmers learned ‘better’ ways to raise animals and crops. I guess you never got the memo.
When my grandma, now 89, was a kid, they went from farm to farm and raised all sorts of food for a living. She said they were poor but her and her sisters and brother didn’t know it. They had all they needed to eat because they raised it themselves. They were self-sufficient in ways most people these days don’t even begin to understand. (Yes, this is the Grandma that asked her postal worker to butcher a chicken for her when she was a kid!)
One time, Grandma and her family raised turkeys. She talks about how she had to help gather the free ranging birds from the pasture and how sometimes they were less than cooperative. Once she took a tiny pebble and threw it at one especially stubborn turkey only to accidentally knock him out. She rushed him down to the creek and dipped him up and down in the water until he gained consciousness. Her parents never found out.
Another time the family landed on a dairy farm for a five-year stint. Grandma milked cows before and after school, seven days a week, for five years. Cows that hung out in the pasture and ate real, organic food. That was back before grass became bragging rights.
I certainly wouldn’t want to go back to those days because I know life was hard. I don’t have some romantic, idealized idea about how cool it would be to live back then. But isn’t it great that some of those “old fashioned, outdated practices”, where cows ate grass and turkeys had to be herded in from the pasture, are coming back into vogue?
It’s happening in little pockets all over the world. As we get re-acquainted with our farmers and food sources, and even try raising and growing some of our own food, we’re embracing those old fashioned ways that only a few years ago were considered outdated.
Because of that, maybe some day soon we won’t read that the cows producing the milk we’re drinking were fed grass because it will be a given, just like it is for my grandma. It won’t make them special. It will just be how cows are raised.